Yesterday, a story caught my eye on the local news’ Facebook page. A four year old girl was getting stitches for an injury sustained after being punched (according to the girl’s mother) by a male classmate on the schoolyard. While at the Children’s Hospital, the mother claims that a male orderly at the registration desk (in an effort to cheer the little girl up), told her, “I bet he likes you.” The mother apparently took this as not only advocating violence, but teaching her young, impressionable daughter that hitting someone is a sign of affection:

“I bet he likes you.”
Dear man at the registration desk at Children’s hospital, l’m positive that you didn’t think that statement through. As soon as I heard it I knew that is where it begins. That statement is where the idea that hurting is flirting begins to set a tone for what is acceptable behavior. My four year old knows “That’s not how we show we like someone. That was not a good choice.”
In that moment, hurt and in a new place, worried about perhaps getting a shot or stitches you were a person we needed to help us and your words of comfort conveyed a message that someone who likes you might hurt you. No. I will not allow that message to be ok. I will not allow it to be louder than “That’s not how we show we like each other.” At that desk you are in a position of influence, whether you realize it or not. You thought you were making the moment lighter. It is time to take responsibility for the messages we as a society give our children. Do Not tell my 4 year old who needs stitches from a boy at school hitting her “I bet he likes you.” NO.

Upon seeing this post, I responded in a Facebook reply on the station’s page:

Here’s my “open letter” response:

As a parent myself, I think you’re going a little too far with this “open letter on Facebook.” You said it yourself: “You thought you were making the moment lighter.” Why can’t you take someone’s intent for face value? They were trying to help. I’m sure the last thing on their mind at the time was whether or not they were opening the door to a lesson in domestic violence.

Now, I understand – you’re angry. Your little girl just got stitches because of someone else’s child. You’re going to be emotional, and anyone who crosses you is probably going to catch your wrath, whether they deserve it or not. The orderly at the hospital did not hit your child, nor were they trying to make light of an injury – they were simply trying to lighten your daughter’s mood. Be happy they were at least TRYING.

I hate to throw your words back at you, but l’m positive that you didn’t think that statement through too much when you hit “send” on Facebook and proceeded to embarrass a poor orderly who by your own admission was trying to help. The only person who deserves your wrath is who did this to your daughter, not the orderly trying to help. You went from concerned parent to grandstanding jerk, and now that your letter has gone viral, I’m sure that orderly will at least face some sort of professional discipline.

Look, people say stupid things. We’re humans. We put our foots in our mouths quite often. Is it really worth blowing up like this? What if someone posted an open letter on Facebook the next time you said something you didn’t think through? Sure, we all have a right to call someone out, but that doesn’t always make it ethical.

As for the orderly’s assumption of “I bet he likes you” – apparently you never heard the story of the Little Girl In The School Yard, where in a GIRL (not a boy) punches the boy she has a crush on….

I was immediately taken to task by several folks who thought that I was out of line for such a response, and proceeded to compare this little girl’s injury to an abusive relationship and even rape, claiming that if we tell a preschooler that if someone punches you, they probably like you, we are somehow scarring them for life by telling them it’s OK to be beaten if the person loves them.

First of all, let me say this: I do NOT condone domestic violence in any way. Period.

Secondly, let’s take a step back and look at what we know. A little girl was hit by a little boy. The injury required stitches. The little boy’s parents, in theory, are the ones on the hook for that, because it was their son who did the damage. It’s up to the little girl’s mother to take it up with them. End of story.

Thirdly, let’s look at intent. A male orderly (of unknown age) made a reference to the well-known “Little Girl In the Schoolyard” story, wherein a little girl chases a little boy and punches him because she secretly has a crush on him. It’s a cute little story, and it’s intended to make kids giggle and blush. I’m sure that was the intent here of this orderly.

Now, had the orderly said, “Suck it up, kid, he’s just trying to get your number,” then yes, I’d say there’s a problem, but it sounds to me (and by the mother’s own admission), he was simply trying to lighten the mood. Take it for what it is.

Had this mother not made such a stink about it, these words (and most of the event) would probably wind up mostly forgotten as this child grows up. Move along, nothing to see here. But no, this mother had to write an open letter admonishing the orderly and embarrassing her poor daughter with a photo (pre-stitches, mind you) of her injury.

Now, before someone flies off the handle, let me also add this. I have a four year old son who just a few weeks ago required stitches from a playground injury. When the nurse asked what happened, I told them he got into a bar fight, and they should see the other guy. Now, these nurses could’ve easily misunderstood what was fairly obviously a joke, called the department of child services, and reported me for taking a four year old to a bar, but they realized I was making light of a situation, primarily because if children see you panic, then THEY will panic with you. If they see you calm, relaxed, and making jokes, then they will be likewise.

THAT’S ALL THIS ORDERLY WAS TRYING TO DO!!!

On top of all that, can we PLEASE stop looking at this world through the jaded eyes of a 21st century adult and TRY looking at it through the eyes of a child? I’m sure the first thing that went through this little girl’s head was not, “Oh, he hits me, so he must love me, so that means that it’s ok for someone to hit me because it means they love me.” It was probably closer to, “Ew, GROSS!!” And that would be it.

So many times, we look at things from the perspective of an adult, reading way more into something than children are even capable of. The only way a child will read into something is if we TELL them. Otherwise, just let them old on to their innocence.

So, I stand by my response. This mother flipped out and went overboard on what was essentially a throw-away line meant to calm the child. Instead, it enraged an emotional parent even more, and could have possibly cost someone their job over a simple misunderstanding. Live and let live people. If someone says something you don’t like, deal with it in person, on the spot, and move on.

On a side note, how much trouble did her classmate get into?? Is the mother now pressing assault charges against a four year old….?